I brought a preschooler to the bathroom, and patiently waited while he finished. I helped him wash his hands and, he said, “You forgot something!” I paused and could not think of anything else a preschooler usually does in the bathroom. I had to ask, “What did I forget?” He said, “You forgot to say P.U.! My mommy always says P.U. when I poop in the bathroom.”
Sometimes I forget how important parents’ routines are in a child’s life. When parents consistently do things over and over, children pay attention. Things become routine and normal for a child. Each parent gets to set their own routines and phrases in their lives. If I had to make a guess, the parent of the child who I was talking to was not thinking they were making long-standing rules for bathroom etiquette as they say, “P.U.”. That is often what happens in parenting. We say things without realizing how well our children are listening.
We get so caught up in trying to get our children to listen to us so they will clean their rooms and eat their healthy dinner that we forget they are actually listening at other times. They are listening when we talk to strangers in the grocery store. They are listening when we whisper to our friends. They are listening when we have disagreements with our spouses. They are listening when we tell the other person on the phone that we are busy doing our work when we are really on our way to a movie.
We have heard that an elephant never forgets, but a preschooler can act like an elephant if the conditions are right. Hopefully more things are pleasant memories than ones filled with P.U..
- What is something you remember your parents saying a lot?
- Do you have a memory of your parents’ words sneaking out of your mouth at some point?
- If you could be assured a child would always remember your words, what is one thing you would like to tell him?